US envoy: Guatemala lawmakers who hired lobby firm 'idiots'

AP News
Posted: Jun 22, 2017 4:21 PM

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A Guatemalan congressman demanded an apology from the U.S. ambassador after the diplomat called him and three colleagues "idiots" in an audio recording that was made public Thursday.

Ambassador Todd Robinson's comments came in a meeting Wednesday with local journalists in which he was critical of the lawmakers for hiring a lobbying firm to help with U.S. relations.

"There are four idiots in congress. I have worked closely with many of the lawmakers, but there are some for whom I have no respect neither as lawmakers nor as authorities," Robinson said, according to the audio published online by Prensa Libre.

In a radio interview hours later, Robinson explained that he considered the hiring of the firm — reportedly for 7.2 million quetzales, or nearly $1 million — an unnecessary expense.

"If there are problems with relations between the two countries, there are two embassies to address them," he said.

There was no immediate response to phone and email requests for comment from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala and the U.S. State Department in Washington.

Jaime Regalado, one of the lawmakers involved, told The Associated Press that the lobbying firm Barnes & Thornburg had been hired to help improve relations with U.S. institutions and stimulate investment.

He said government funds were not used and the money came from donations from businesspeople he declined to name.

Regalado said the move was not intended as an attack on the ambassador and demanded an apology.